How Mullen plans to build the revolutionary Crossover EV
Electric vehicle maker Mullen recently gave me an exclusive chance to check out its new FIVE crossover and pick the brains of Chairman and CEO David Michery, as well as Vice President of Engineering Marian Petrelecan. Return to Part 1 of my interview for more on the battery technology that could differentiate Mullen from the growing electric vehicle landscape.
As Michery and Petrelecan explained to me while we were checking out the FIVE, Mullen’s commitment to sustainability extends to manufacturing facilities and sales, in addition to introducing revolutionary batteries in attractive packaging.
A new facility in Tunica, Mississippi
Mullen will build the FIVE in a facility the company recently purchased in Tunica, Mississippi. The factory is currently 124,000 square feet, but Michery explained his plans to quickly increase that figure to more than 1 million square feet on the 100-acre lot. Most importantly, the manufacturing processes of the FIVE will match the green priorities of every electric vehicle owner.
“We don’t just want to say we’re green, we want to go out and be green,” he said. “We are an electric vehicle manufacturer and we are going to stay true to that. We are 100% green, not just with the vehicle, but also with the supply chain. We want to be zero carbon footprint from start to finish, From A to Z.”
This commitment extends to the equipment Mullen will install in Tunica, even the methods used to construct new buildings.
“To have the most sophisticated and technically advanced automotive green facility the world has ever seen. That’s the goal, that’s the mandate.”
Regulatory Challenges Facing an Electric Vehicle Startup
Part of the reason Michery acquired Mullen and the Coda EV involved regulations governing the entire electric vehicle market. Mullen had built sports cars under SB100, while the Coda offered experience in handling the challenges any manufacturer faces.
“More than the aesthetics and the intellectual property that we acquired,” explained Michery, “it was the experience that brought us to a point where we would understand and know how to manage from A to Z all aspects of the producing a car, selling a car, servicing a car, and heaven forbid, handling any potential recalls.And the only way to do that is with experience.
Michery and Mullen spent time under the Trump administration asking for loans from the Department of Energy, both the House of Representatives and the Senate.
“We were aggressive in our AVTM loan application,” Michery said. “We requested this on January 8, 2020, for $450 million and obviously we had to re-prepare our request due to the changes that have taken place in the world due to Covid.”
Those efforts have focused on the Dragonfly built in partnership with Qiantu, but Mullen as a company has evolved beyond that vehicle during the pandemic.
“Then we had no facility,” Michery continued. “Today we do. Then our offering was the Dragonfly, today it’s the SUV as well as the Dagonfly and some utility vehicles. We are in the process of modifying our bid and we intend to submit again in the near future.”
He seems confident the Department of Energy should view Mullen favorably, given that DOE and city officials from Tennessee and Memphis attended the FIVE’s debut at the LA Auto Show last year.
Experience the FIVE design in person
Winning the ZEVA award might also help. And I can report that the FIVE certainly feels more unique in person than it looks in the photos. The SUV coupe’s overall design combines a futuristic performance feel with time-tested details, while the interior offers premium amenities including recycled materials and a combination of new-school touchscreens with on-board switches. Ancient. I asked if the roughly eight-inch ride height specifically targeted other designs more related to minivans like Tesla and Toyota.
“It’s a crossover, not an SUV or a sedan,” Petrelecan said. “You can maybe drive it a bit off-road, but our goal is not to build an all-terrain vehicle, obviously. We wanted an aggressive and beautiful stance, which we achieved.”
Petrelecan also shared more details on the different transmission options that FIVE buyers will have to choose from.
“We offer all-wheel-drive and rear-wheel-drive,” he explained. “Rear-wheel drive will be dual motor in the rear, 300 kilowatts. And all-wheel drive will be dual motor in the rear and another motor in the front, with 200 kilowatts, so we’ll have 500 kilowatts of motors for traction integral.
The top-spec RS, meanwhile, will use four motors for all-wheel drive, although Petrelecan admitted that how those motors would send power to all four wheels is still under development. Like the Nio EP9, one motor could power each wheel – on the other hand, two motors working together front and rear could better provide drive and balance. Either way, Michery seems confident in the performance of the FIVE RS borderline hypercar.
“We’re looking at well over 1,000 horsepower,” Michery said. “We’re looking at specs of a zero to sixty in 1.9 seconds and a top speed of 204 miles per hour.”
Transmission options and deliveries
I asked Petrelecan if the FIVE will use a single-speed transmission à la Tesla, or two forward speeds like Porsche’s Taycan. In response, he differentiated between the standard FIVE and the high-end RS.
“The base car will be a single-speed transmission,” he said. “Now for the RS it’s completely different. We’re servicing two and two motors, maybe in the wheels, and it’s definitely going to be at least a two-speed transmission. In order to pick up from 150 miles, I think that two speeds might not be doing it, so we are still under investigation.”
Like many manufacturers, Mullen will offer the best performing and most expensive offering first. The first press campaigns are expected to begin in July 2022, though full production looks likely to see deliveries scheduled for 2024. The RS’s price will easily eclipse $150,000, based on a long list of potential options.
“The difference between the leather seats or the carbon bucket seat,” Michery explained, “You want the carbon bucket seats, it might cost another 20,000,000. We might have a Mansory RS, so not only will you have a hypercar very exotic, but now you’ll have a Mansory body edition and it may cost another hundred grand, but you’ll have a car that will rival some of the best high performance cars on the market at a fraction of the price.
Challenges for any manufacturer
Of course, Mullen faces the same production challenges as any manufacturer looking to speed up electric vehicle deliveries. In addition to pandemic-related supply chain issues, Mullen must secure government funding while expanding the very facilities that will build FIVE. Michery hopes the experience behind Mullen as a legacy brand and the Coda EV should help his company navigate the complexities, while acknowledging the delays even OEMs face these days.
If the promise to have cars rolling and driving by June comes to fruition — unlike the show cars I checked out, each costing $1.5 million — at the very least, Mullen should proactively calm down. some of the inevitable naysayers and skeptics that pop up online to criticize every new EV startup. Consumers can also keep an eye out for Mullen’s addition to the expanding electric vehicle market.
After speaking with Michery and Petrelecan, I can’t wait to drive and experience the FIVE on the road. In the meantime, they’ll stay busy working on a 60-month plan that already includes a larger SEVEN and a smaller THREE to join the FIVE as Mullen transforms into a full line of all-electric crossover SUVs.
Sources: mullenusa.com, energy.gov and laautoshow.com.
A smart electric crossover could arrive sooner than expected
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